Both of my brothers are gamers. Whenever I mention videogames to my little brother, he fixes me with a weary and cynical eye. “Yes, but you’ve only ever liked two games,” he says. “The Sims and Civilization.”
To keep the upstart in his place, I remind him that I remember the dawn of the Internet age, when we played The Crystal Rainforest and I got Encarta as a present. “I remember when not every child in our class had a computer,” I thunder. “You weren’t even born then.” I feel like an old woman of the hills, complaining about this new-fangled electricity.
He is right, though. I don’t buy new videogames (unless you count upgrades of games I own). I respect that videogames are an art form, but I use them for escapism and not to challenge or push myself. So I fit the profile of the so-called casual gamer, the figure that’s so scorned by Serious MRA Gamer types. I’m a woman, I’m in my twenties, I don’t play videogames daily or spend much money on them, and I prefer strategy games and simulation games like The Sims to objective-based or heavily violent games.
Thus I try not to mention videogames to men who are obviously gamers, because I know – I just know – that I will end up nodding politely while they explain the plot of Mass Effect to me, with the air of a man explaining the concept of fire to a woman who complained she was cold.
Except that when I play videogames, I don’t play them casually at all: I get over-involved. I don’t sit there with my legs folded, sipping a drink, playing dress-up games. I become someone else.
Underneath my polite and charming persona lurks another personality, a cross between Machiavelli and Attila the Hun. When I play videogames, I let my evil twin run wild.
On Civilization V, for example, (a turn-based strategy game where you steer a civilization of your choice from the dawn of time to the distant future) I play as the Mongols. I don’t care that you can choose from a range of civilizations from the Greeks to the Iroquois. They do not interest me. I play as Genghis Khan. I do this because as the Mongols you can charge across the plains of your newly discovered world, invading city states, conquering your enemies, and leaving cities to burn. You must conquer ruthlessly as your enemies beg for mercy.
In real life I apologise umpteen times a day, have trouble with confrontation, and get worried when my pets hurt their paws. But as Genghis I am ferocious and unstoppable.
I cannot say why this is, but the clash of steel pleases me. Perhaps I am a distant descendant of Genghis himself. Perhaps I have anger issues that only Genghis can heal. I focus grimly on causing mayhem. Several times my brother has caught me howling in triumph as I conquer America (“YES! KILL IT! BURN NEW YORK TO THE GROUND!”) and he has just shaken his head slowly and backed away. He is frightened of the person I have become. So am I. How did this happen? Never mind, Genghis is here. Genghis understands.
Sometimes I wonder if there is a way to transfer this aggression into day-to-day life (release your inner Genghis, as it were). But maybe Civilization is the best outlet for it. Maybe that’s why we play videogames: in a game you can be as weird and aggressive as you like, and no one can say anything about it.
written by Zozi